Love's Labour's Lost, NT Olivier, London

Honour, NT Cottesloe, London

The Green Man, Bush, London

Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Donmar Warehouse, London

Parting is such sugary sorrow

Presumably Love's Labour's Lost is meant to be Sir Trev's gooey, goodbye treat. It's one helluva lavish, sugary farewell from the National's outgoing artistic director. Apologies if I sound ungrateful. I think it's splendid that Nunn contributed some of his own money to the National. However, watching his staging of Shakespeare's early romantic comedy – translated to an Edwardian country estate – is like drowning in a vat of condensed milk.

John Gunter's set is pretty as a picture – a Merchant Ivory picture. Maybe the movie contract has, in fact, already been signed as Joseph Fiennes' Berowne and his three aristocratic chums idle in linen suits in a forest glade that comes complete with hectares of real grass, a vast beech and cohorts of gamekeepers and cute village schoolboys. Nunn's choruses of "common folk" always look peculiarly cheesy though they do alert you to class relations.

This lot are soon joined by the four ladies who distract the lords from their sworn devotion to books by swanning round in lace gowns. Regrettably, this is all so excessively gorgeous that the "gorge rises at it", especially when composer Steven Edis's syrupy score is added to the mix.

And it doesn't mask the potentially arid and bald aspects of the script – the archaic jokes and schematic couplings. A better antidote would have been for Nunn's actors to really exude the zest of youth and of sharp minds stimulated by schooling.

Berowne's beloved Rosaline, played by Kate Fleetwood, is more smug than sparky, and Fiennes' Berowne is a handsomely lolling humorist with no aggressive edge. So the tempering penance his sweetheart imposes on him – trying to make the dying laugh for a year – seems peculiarly harsh.

Still, some scenes charm with Simon Day's nerdy King and Olivia Williams's teasing yet sensitive Princess. The narrative frame Nunn imposes, where Berowne is perhaps fatally shot on a First World War battlefield, also fits with the sombre turn this comedy takes.

One should also note that Nunn's reign is generally ending on a high with The Talking Cure, Janet McTeer in The Duchess of Malfi and, now, Roger Mitchell's intense UK premiere of Honour. Written by Australia's Joanna Murray-Smith, this is a portrait of a marriage shattered by a late-life crisis. Corin Redgrave's George, a successful writer, suddenly bins his devoted wife, Eileen Atkins' Honor, for a heady affair with a smart young journalist, Catherine McCormack's Claudia.

Murray-Smith's writing, at its best, is searching and droll, naturalistic and poetically honed. Occasionally, McCormack's feminist Claudia sounds wooden. But Redgrave lets fierce egocentricity seep subtly through mild manners. Atkins's progress from confidence to grief to independence is riveting, as is Anna Maxwell Martin playing their shocked, furious daughter. Michell's traverse staging – with a Japanese minimalist feel to its sandy blinds and bare floor – tightly contains any sentimentality in this sometimes harrowing play.

Extramarital flings and whisky-fuelled aggression are going to sever whatever ties bind the blokes in Doug Lucie's new pub drama, The Green Man, especially since the construction company boss, Mitch, crassly scoffs at his sensitive foreman, Lou, for not being a "real man". I reckon The Priory is going to have to open another wing, to cope with the growing addiction to setting plays in boozers. It must be said, though, Lucie's script is no match for The Weir.

Simon Stokes' production is highly commendable. Julie Legrand excels as the tough landlady, Linda, who has a soft-spot for Phil Daniels' scruffy, brooding Lou. But Mitch seems relentlessly vile, even though Danny Webb endows him with a nervous underside. Also, in spite of Lucie's ear for chat, the conflicts can seem repetitive.

Finally, artistic director Michael Grandage is taking the Donmar in new directions with an emphasis on modern European classics. This looks disastrous at first in Robert Delamere's revival of Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Dario Fo's satirical farce was political dynamite in Italy in 1970, alluding to the "accidental" fall from a police station window of a radical supposed bomber. Though terrorism and deaths in custody are, of course, relevant to Britain, Simon Nye's bouncy new English adaptation lacks Fo's original trenchant topicality.

Rhys Ifans' initial zany antics seem desperately hyperactive too. Playing the lunatic who – after the "fall" – sneaks into the coppers HQ armed with disguises, Ifans leaps around in a Spiderman suit, tiresomely switching accents. Emma Amos is also awkward as the blonde bombshell journalist who snoops round near the end. Nevertheless, the central send-up of the justice system becomes coruscating as Ifans transmogrifies into a judge who conducts a mock-investigation into the "accident". Veering between damning sarcasm and egging on preposterous alibis, he scares Adrian Scarborough's thuggish Superintendent silly. Getting the cops to tearfully chorus protest ballads – shaking handcuffs like tambourines – is a wonderful flight of fancy with a sardonic sting in its tail.

k.bassett@independent.co.uk

'Love's Labour's Lost' & 'Honour': NT, London SE1 (020 7452 3000), to 18 March & 27 March respectively; 'The Green Man': Bush, London W12 (020 7610 4224), to 22 March; 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist': Donmar Warehouse, London WC2 (020 7369 1732), to 19 April

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London